Title defense off to a rotten start

The 2018 season ended perfectly for the Boston Red Sox. 5 games was all it took for Alex Cora to go from rookie GM to the first Puerto Rican manager in history to bring home a World Series title. He hugged his crying daughter, fans and players celebrated, and Mr Cora got rewarded with a long term contract. Everything was perfectly set up for the party to continue. Then the season began.

Flash forward 2 weeks into the 2019 campaign and everything has changed. Gone are the smiles, the tears of joy and the balloons (we assume there was balloons), and in their place we find frowns, tears of sadness and whatever the horrible version of balloons is.

The truth is, of course, that there is a very real chance that nothing is wrong in Boston. Winning a World Series title undeniably takes a lot out of you and it is fully understandable that the Red Sox might need some time to readjust to the competition. A slow start is nothing new, and lets face it: everyone are bound to enter a slump in a 162 game season, you might as well get it over with right away.

But that’s not what the Sox are doing. Signing Cora to a long extension, as well as tying down Andrew Benintendi (not that he had much choice), Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts showed that the Red Sox had faith in their men to go and grab them 2 titles in as many years. So far, the numbers are pointing towards a disappointing season.

Here’s a short list of what’s gone wrong for the defending champs:

  1. Chris Sale has lost control – Sale might have only played 27 games in 2018, but an ERA of 2.11 is still mightily impressive. His ERA after 3 games and 13 innings pitched in 2019 sits at a thoroughly unimpressive 9. The Boston Red Sox are not finished without a Chris Sale in top form, far from it, but having one of the best pitchers in major league baseball simply not show up has to be of concern.
  2. So has everyone else – Sale’s ERA is horrifying, but sadly, very few of his compatriots in the Red Sox rotation can boast much better numbers. Sure, Ryan Brasier looks like he might be a very valuable closer and can – together with Walden and Workman – breathe a well earned sigh of relief with an ERA of 0, but that doesn’t help when household names like Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and David Price can’t pull their weight. Price currently has an ERA of 6 with 12 IP, Eovaldi has an ERA of 8.10 with 10 IP, and Rick Porcello might as well stick his head in the sand with an ERA of 13.50 with 7.1 IP. A slow start can be accepted from any player, not from EVERY player.
  3. Error prone defense – You can’t win with horrible pitching, you also can’t win when your pitching staff gets zero help from the rest of the defense. 9 errors in 9 games is simply not good enough for a team who last year were considered to possibly be one of the great teams in baseball history.

The season has barely started, but it is worth noting that the Red Sox opened 2018 with a 12-2 record, something which undeniably set the tone for the success that followed. 2019 will be a grind for Boston.

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